Graeme, “The man” at the World Challenge
Much like Tiger Woods did at last year’s World Challenge, Graeme McDowell snapped a two-year victory drought at Sherwood Country Club on Sunday as he carded a final-round 68 for a tournament total of 17-under 271. McDowell edged out fellow competitor Keegan Bradley by three strokes for the win, with players using ball-in-hand for the fourth straight day due to soggy conditions.
McDowell’s last worldwide victory came in 2010 at the World Challenge, where he defeated Woods in a playoff to conclude a career year. With the victory, McDowell becomes just the third player to win the event on multiple occasions, joining host Woods (5) and Davis Love III (2). The setting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., seems to meet the Northern Irishman’s eye, as McDowell has never shot a round of par or worse in the event and 10 of his 12 career rounds at the tournament have been in the 60s. McDowell joined Bradley as the only other player to shoot four rounds in the 60s this week.
Woods began the day at 8-under par and five shots off McDowell’s lead, but made the turn in 1-over to see any hopes of a rally diminish. Woods recorded a birdie and an eagle on Nos. 13 and 16, respectively, before closing the tournament with a bogey on the last. Woods’ 9-under finish placed him in a tie for fourth, just his third time in 12 appearances that he’s placed outside the top two.
Bradley began the day as McDowell’s nearest opposition, sitting just two shots back at 11-under. Both players birdied the par-5 2nd hole, then Bradley inched to within one shot after another birdie on the par-5 5th hole. However, that served as McDowell’s slimmest margin, as Bradley closed the front nine with back-to-back bogies on Nos. 8 and 9.
McDowell stretched his cushion to four shots over Bradley thanks to birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, but the advantage would be short-lived. Two holes later, Bradley cut the deficit in half with a birdie on the par-5 13th, while McDowell carded just his third bogey of the rain-soaked week thanks to a wayward drive.
Both players took advantage on their next par-5 opportunity at No. 16, as each carded a birdie four to leave McDowell with a two-shot lead with two to play. After a pair of pars on the par-3 17th, McDowell finished the round in fashion by converting a birdie from inside of 10 feet at the final hole.
Many players made a run into double-figures late in the afternoon, but the efforts were too little too late. Bo Van Pelt finished in solo third at 10-under, but could have had a much more effective finish on Sunday. Van Pelt shot out of the gates with birdies on the first two holes, but gave shots back with bogeys on Nos. 4 and 9 to turn in even-par. He then strung together three-straight birdies on hole Nos. 11-13 and added one more on No. 16 to reach 12-under. Van Pelt closed with a double-bogey on the final hole for his 10-under finish.
Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk also reached 10-under for the tournament, but each closed with bogey on the final hole to finish tied with Woods for fourth place. Fowler perhaps had the most up and down week, displayed in his first two holes on Sunday alone. Fowler holed out for an eagle two at No. 1, followed by a bogey on No. 2. On the week, Fowler carded 17 birdies and two eagles, but also threw in five bogies, two double-bogies and a triple-bogey.
Webb Simpson (-7), Steve Stricker (-6), Hunter Mahan (-5) and Bubba Watson (-5) rounded out the top 10 at the tournament. Mahan carded a final-round 68, matching McDowell for the low round of the day. McDowell also owned the low round of the tournament, a 66 coming on Friday.